Learning Game Design

with Arcade Berg

Posts Tagged ‘review

SmallLargeCelestialBody

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[Disclaimer: I’m sorry. After writing this I realise that it’s a lot of words… It’s just that I got so much to say. I even left some parts out. I’ll try and keep it shorter in the future.]

Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet is my new drug. The sensation will most likely wear off but heck, right now, I can’t stop thinking about it.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way; the game isn’t perfect. I wanted it to be, but it really isn’t.

The gameplay is focused with a great scope. The controls are really user friendly making this very close to being a pick-up and play title. The plattforming gameplay only requires one analogue stick and two buttons to be used, the rest of the buttons are used for emotes and placing stickers to unlock some secrets.

The friendly approach towards the player is, if you ask me, a wise decision but it can however turn many experienced players off. In an earlier post I described the physics as being part of a moon landing and I’ll stick by that claim. It’s all very… floaty. The plattforming isn’t like Mario, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, Mega Man or any other plattformer you think feels good. LittleBigPlanet is just… slow. The controls can be quite unresponsive because of this and some precision jumping can get you killed because of what you as the player might feel isn’t your fault.

However, the more you play it the more you get used to it and starts adjusting your timing accordingly automatically. It’s more often not a problem for me nowadays.

Because everything is physics driven you’ll probably encounter what I think is the gameplay experience’s  biggest flaw. Sometimes your (adorable!) sackboy will have a hard time keeping his feet on the surface beneath him. The problem with this is that when you’re trying to jump you just… might not. This is because if the sackboy isn’t actually standing on something, of course he can’t push away from anything to jump. A great example in the game of this is an early level in which you stand on a (mechanical) bull’s back and you have to jump off at the end to reach a plattform. Because the bull’s back keeps moving, aswell as his neck, I most often needs several tries because actually making what would in any other plattforming game be a very easy jump.

There are, as I see it three parts of the game; the Story Mode created by Media Molecule themself, the community aspects and the creation of new content.

I’ve finished the Story Mode playing by myself and I’ve replayed quite a few of them with friends and with randoms on the Internet. The story is about as deep as a puddle of water but that’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay, it’s great. This is the kind of game that shouldn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to narrative and epic story-telling.

The Story Mode is really fun and all but the reason I keep playing is because there are hidden treasures all over each level, giving you more stuff to use in Creation Mode and the fact that Media Molecule’s own levels are truly great examples on what you yourself can create. It serves as inspiration like no other if you don’t already have many hours spent on the Creation Mode. Let me tell you this; the guys that made this game are quite clever fellows!

Now, playing alone is jolly good fun but playing with friends, local or online, now that’s where the fun really takes off! It’s hard to make a game boring if it includes co-op, but it’s even harder to make a game this much more fun when played with buddies!

When I feel that I want something else than the bundled levels, I can go online and try out all the user-generated content and that’s where the second part of the game takes place. There are hundreds, maybe thousands (I don’t know) of levels created by other players out there. Let me be honest with you guys… You can keep a secret, right? Most of the community levels sucks… Big time! But hey, that’s to be expected and while there are some worse than any episode of Days of our lives, there are also some simply amazing ones. Some levels beat Media Molecules levels in in ingenuity, some in art and some in pure fun to play!

I really recommend trying out the levels World of Color and Super Tank (both videos avaliable 15/11-08).

One thing I think is really cool with the community levels is that the creator can choose to share things he or she builds as prizes on the level. Either by having them as a pick-up in the level or as a reward for finishing the level with a pre-requirement fullfilled. Thereby community levels are just as much worth playing as an official level.

The game’s Trophies are even encouraging playing both the Story Mode aswell as the community levels. Thumbs up Media Molecule! 

The third and final part of the game is to create your own levels for others to play.

Let me just get this off my chest:

Include Keyboard and Mouse-support! Create a patch now and give me some decent controls! I want hotkeys, Ctrl-Click, Mouse-based camera control, Ctrl-Z (Oh god… How I want Ctrl-Z…)! Give me! Gief! I want it! I crave it! I’ll even pay for it on PSN! Just… Do it!

…Phew.

When I was to create my first stuff in the Creation Mode I made one big mistake. I got in way over my ears! “How hard can it be? Let’s build’s some mechanical robot-thingy.” … Well, let me tell you; I failed. Oh man, the first night I was fiddleing with the editor, I got furious. Nothing worked, things kept falling apart, my levers and switches didn’t do what I wanted. I got to bed irritated that night…

The entire next day at work I pondered on each tools functionality, I read up on some forums (avaliable 15/11-08) (during breaks, of course) and once I got home, I sat down and started creating some simpler stuff, one step at a time and suddenly I felt enlightened. It all worked. Godrays lit on me from heaven, I had been chosen, I was now one of the creators.

God said: Arcade, damn you’re cool!
I answered: Thanks dude, you’re not so bad yourself, creating the earth and everything.
God: A mighty fine world I might add.
Me: Yeah, but sorry to dissapoint you. I’m gonna surpass you now. I’m gonna create a world in which everyone is happy. And once I’m done, I won’t take a day off to relax.
God: Impudent child! I’ll stop you!
Me: You try and do that. Watch me!

It’s on! So let’s see who’s gonna win. Me or God? 

Creating, now there’s my drive. It’s what I love to do and it’s what I’m usually good at. I find the tools in LittleBigPlanet to be very limiting and they offer a very slow working environment which at times make me a less than super happy boy with stunning looks. 

Yet, I love working with it. Right now, I’m longing for it! I’ve been away this weekend, and during the time on the trains, I’ve been sketching ideas for one of my two level projects. At work, I sketch. It’s like a drug!

I’m such a LittleBigPlanet sucker that I’ve bought all their extra in-game clothing available on the PSN-store. One measly T-shirt, only for sale during the first week cost 45 Swedish crowns (4.5 euro or 5.7 US dollars)! Luckily it as the only thing ridiculously expensive.

The game has overall been getting some really great reviews. During the first few hours with the game I thought maybe they were a little too positive but now I see that they were right. This game deserves all the great reviews it gets!

So, I’ll see you in LittleBigPlanet?

PS. God, prepare for humiliation!

 

Say hello to my LittleFriend!

Say hello to my LittleFriend!

Written by Arcade

November 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

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Last week Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia from Konami showed up for the DS. I’m about 5 hours into the game and I think it’s great!

It’s well adapted for the Nintendo DS plattform by allowing for very short play sessions without leaving the playe unsatisified and annoyed which I feel is the case in many DS-games. I mostly play it on the bus to and from work and sometimes during the lunch and that’s about it.

Making me feel that it’s okay to spent that little time per play session is a fantastic acclompishment and something that shows that when done right; handheld gaming can be great fun! I often feel that handheld games still require me to invest a lot of time per session if I am to get something from it.

The controls in this Castlevania is just like all the other in the 2D-series after Symphony of the Night (which by the way still is THE best Castlevania game and should be purchased by all via XBLA or PSN) and it’s just as responsive as ever. If I die, it’s because I screw up; just like in the Megaman franchise. Personally I’m very happy that they don’t require the player to use the stylus or touch screen at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the touch screen. I absolutely love Nintendo’s Kirby: Power Paintbrush (aka. Kirby: Canvas Curse, aka. Touch! Kirby). In fact, it’s one of my favorite games for the DS. However I don’t like it when I’m required to change my grip on the console, going from a “classic” D-pad + face button grip to a stylus grip like they do in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.

The bosses seem as far into the game as I gotten have been tremendously hard untill I figure out a good tactic after which I can overcome the obstacle with great success. The challenge overall can seem a bit too much for casual players but then again, Castlevania has never aimed to please them anyway. For Castlevania-fans, such as myself the difficulty is just about right and quite similar to the previous games.

And the art, oh, the art! The game is beautiful! As always with the series, the sprites are wonderfully animated and there is never a “cheap trick” to it. If you’re wearing a rapier in your left hand and a mace in the right, you can be damn sure that’s how it’s gonna look in the game when Shanoa (the game’s avatar) starts bashing away.

If I could play this game on my TV instead, I would.

The downside of the game for me is for one the monotomous sound effects that after a while can get a bit annoying but at the same time, it’s pretty much the same effects they’ve been using for several games now so it’s pretty charming.  That is however no excuse.

If you’re a Castlevania-fan, odds are that you’re already well aware of this game and need to hear nothing more. However, if you’re just a gamer looking for a good DS-game I’d highly recommend this. It’s not for everyone but I think you at least should check it out, it’s worth that much.

What I want now is a new great 2D Castlevania-game for the PS3 and/or Xbox 360!

 

Box art

Box art

An early boss fight

An early boss fight

Shanoa; the protagonist

Shanoa; the protagonist

Written by Arcade

November 4, 2008 at 8:51 pm

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